Art of Fiction

James Ley: Searching for the Great American Novel

James Ley

Well, it’s Moby-Dick, obviously. Except when it’s Huckleberry Finn or Absalom, Absalom! or Invisible Man or Gravity’s Rainbow. The Great Gatsby will often do, if one is pressed for time.

There is something a bit ridiculous about the idea that a single book could become the definitive expression of an ent ... More

Peter Craven reviews 'The Young Desire It' by Kenneth Mackenzie

Peter Craven

The legend of Kenneth Mackenzie (1913–55) has always hovered around the corridors of Australian literature. From Western Australia, was he? Died young, didn’t he? Trouble with drink, wasn’t it? Or sexual identity, could it have been? They say he’s worth reading but nobody much has, have they?

Well, the republication of The Young ... More

Simon Caterson on 'John le Carré’s spy at fifty'

Simon Caterson

In describing the enduring cultural impact of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold – published fifty years ago and often nominated as the best spy novel ever written – a good place to start, strange though it may sound, is James Bond. John le Carré’s squalid yet subtle world of Cold War spies may appear antithetical to the glamorous fantasy of Bond. ... More

Alison Broinowski on Asian Australian fiction in the Asian Century

Alison Broinowski

White Papers are falling on Australia like confetti. We had two on foreign affairs and one on terrorism in the seven years to 2004; the third one on defence in four years will appear this year, and in October 2012 Ken Henry delivered Australia in the Asian Century. Defence White Papers are perennially concerned with Australia’s need for the material and mon ... More

Miles Franklin loosens up

Patrick Allington

Soon after the announcement of the shortlist of this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award (‘the Miles’), bookmaker Tom Waterhouse installed Anna Funder’s All That I Am (2011) as favourite. Fair enough, too: it’s an astute and absorbing Australian novel about, among other things, Nazism’s long shadow. But Waterhouse favoured Funder – oddly – ... More

Ruth Starke reviews 'Inside Creative Writing'

Ruth Starke

Graeme Harper is a big name in the academic field of creative writing. He was the first in Australia to be awarded a doctorate in creative writing (UTS, 1993) and followed that with a PhD from the University of East Anglia; he has held professorships in creative writing in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States. He edits journals and writes textbooks o ... More

Sonya Hartnett revisits 'A Difficult Young Man' by Martin Boyd

Sonya Hartnett

Few writers, it could be argued, have ever cannibalised life for their art as ruthlessly and consistently as did Martin Boyd; and few are born into situations which lend themselves so readily to art. Boyd’s working life – indeed, much of his entire existence – was spent trying to unite the past with the present, the old world with the new, himself with the man ... More

Christina Stead: The Man Who Loved Children; and Christina Stead: Letty Fox

Margaret Harris and Fiona Morrison

Christina Stead is an author perennially ripe for rediscovery. Her acknowledged masterpiece, The Man Who Loved Children, came out originally in 1940; in 2005, it figured in Time’s list of the 100 best novels published since 1923. But in his introduction to the Miegunyah Modern Library edition of the novel, American novelist Jonathan Franzen cites ... More

Chris Flynn and Peter Carey on the challenging times for mid-list authors

Chris Flynn

British author Glen Duncan released his eighth novel this year, the title of which, The Last Werewolf, is fairly self-explanatory. Although a much more philosophical (and entertaining) read than one might imagine in our current supernaturally-dominated ‘box-office’ novel landscape, Duncan’s book was a marked departure from an author better known for h ... More

Victor Hugo and the glory of narrative

Brian Nelson

For many of his contemporaries, Victor Hugo (1802–85) was the most important literary figure of the nineteenth century. He was considered the greatest French poet; he became the leader of the Romantic movement with the staging of his anti-classical play Hernani (1830); and he wrote monumental, hugely popular novels. He was also an iconic political figure. ... More

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